Detroit’s Summer Job Program: A Catalyst for Career and Life Success

The following editorial by City Connect Detroit President and CEO Dierk L. Hall appeared on the Detroit News Editorial Page on April 29, 2016.

This is the 9th consecutive summer that Detroit introduces its youth to the local job market through the Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program. The program is a national success story, with nearly 20,000 Detroiters having found paid summer employment and training through its ranks.  As President of City Connect Detroit, the nonprofit that helped create and co-manages the program, I believe we can do still more, together, to prepare our young people for tomorrow’s careers

The unemployment rate for Detroit’s young adults aged 16-24 is approximately 50 percent – twice the national average. Our summer program fights back by giving young people an opportunity to learn what work is all about. We help young people develop soft skills and a work identity, and build a bridge to full-time employment. The program exposes youth to career opportunities, and it teaches the importance of a continuing education.

This summer, with additional support from the City of Detroit and Mayor Mike Duggan, we expect to continue expanding and improving the program. Our immediate goal is to develop its long-term sustainability, by building more partner cooperation, pursuing supportive policies, and formalizing new and existing funding arrangements.

We also  believe that more training and support is needed than can be provided through a six-week summer job alone. For this reason, we are working with partners to build and connect new programming options that keep young people preparing for careers and life year-round. This combination of summer jobs and expanded programming promises to help youth and families, but it is also good for the bottom line. Regional talent is aging, with the rate of retirement increasing and young people often unready to fill jobs vacated by older workers. Supporting employment and training for today’s young talent is a surefire way to fill tomorrow’s employment ranks with well-qualified workers who are happy to call our region home.

As we embark on another, larger youth job challenge this summer, we keep in mind that opportunities offered to Detroit’s young people are catalysts for addressing future talent needs. We are committed to driving this work in our region, and to sharing the program’s story and lessons learned in communities from Battle Creek to Flint, and Atlanta to New Orleans. In this way, with your continued support, Detroit community solutions will serve our people and become the next big export from our Motor City.